Last year, my wife and I welcomed a foster child into our family. We’re honored to be foster parents. The experience has been the most rewarding of our lives, if not without its challenges.

The number of foster parents in Maine is growing. According to the Casey Foundation, there are almost 800 more kids in Maine’s foster care system now than there were in 2017, bringing the total number of children in foster care to more than 2,300.

In a state where there are not enough foster homes available to meet the need, we must do what we can to support foster parents so that these kids can have the best care possible. This year, we have a unique opportunity to bring foster parents a long-lasting gift: a strong paid family and medical leave program.

Paid family and medical leave guarantees time for employed foster parents to bond with a foster child who was placed in the past year or when beginning a formal kinship care arrangement – when the child is placed with a family relative.

This time is crucial in helping foster kids develop and maintain positive beliefs about themselves, which serve a protective purpose later in life. All of us want kids to be and feel safe, cared for and loved. The foster care system can help to accomplish this for many children by providing a safe haven while biological parents work toward reunification or by providing permanency through adoption when deemed necessary.

We know that for LGBTQIA youth whose families of origin have shamed, punished or kicked them out, welcoming foster families can truly be a lifeline. We also know that more than 5,200 grandparents in Maine are the primary caregivers for  their grandchildren. This means that it is likely that those grandparents who are employed will need paid leave for their own health conditions at some point or, if they are unemployed, then their employed loved ones will need paid leave to provide family caregiving. An inclusive definition of family is also important for aging and elderly adults who need and provide care.


Any parent welcoming a new child into their home should be able to solely focus on that child and have time to fully adjust to such a huge transition. With a strong, universal program of paid family and medical leave, low-wage and middle-class workers would receive most of their regular wages. They also wouldn’t have to worry about losing their jobs or health insurance. To prioritize workers and to be transparent in how the taxes that fund the program are used, this program would be run by a statewide government agency whose main goal is to support the success of eligible workers throughout the application process.

Eleven other states (including Washington, D.C.) have created statewide, government-run paid family and medical leave programs. The seven of those that are open for applications are doing so at a higher quality and lower cost than private companies. The remaining four are still in the startup phase and have not begun accepting applications yet.

When my wife and I became foster parents, I was fortunate that my employer’s paid parental leave policy allowed me to take the time off I needed. But I know that is seldom the case for many of my fellow foster parents. It’s time we come together to change that. We have a chance to do this in this legislative session, with a bill that will create a comprehensive paid family and medical leave system for all Maine workers.

Sunday is Mother’s Day. Let’s show our love and appreciation for all the kinds of moms, guardians and primary caregivers of kids in our state. Please consider joining the Maine Paid Leave Coalition. Talk with your legislators and neighbors about creating a strong paid family and medical leave program here in Maine.

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